Monday, April 20, 2020

Book Review: Missing May by Cynthia Rylant (1992)

Summer is grateful to Aunt May and Uncle Ob, who took her in and raised her after the death of her parents. Now that May has died, however, Summer isn't sure how to help Ob move past his grief. Ob misses May so much that he hasn't quite stepped up to look after Summer, and he seems to be constantly looking for ways he might contact May's spirit in the afterlife. The only person who seems like he might be able to help Ob is Cletus, Summer's classmate, who is unfazed by Ob's sadness, and seems truly able to empathize with the older man's feelings.

I am pretty sure that I read this book prior to starting to track my reading on Goodreads, but I have to admit it didn't make a very strong impression because reading it this time, nothing was at all familiar. Honestly, as I'm writing this review, it's been a few weeks since my second reading, and most of the details have again already escaped me. This is a very subtle story, and though the emotional impact lingers, the specific events of the story seem to fade fairly quickly.

That said, this book is a helpful exploration of the ways different people process grief, which could be appealing and beneficial to any family where a child is dealing with loss. Though the religious explanations I have given to my own children about death and dying are largely missing from the story (aside from a few vague ideas about angels), I still appreciate the story's willingness to indulge in the difficulties Ob faces, and the fact that it resists the temptation to give Ob a sign of comfort from the afterlife.  Ob and Summer do find a way to move on, but it comes from their own will rather than any quick fixes.

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